By the Spring of 1942 the German offensives across Europe had been incredibly successful, despite the failure to defeat the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa. Hitler, however, wanted to defeat the Soviets soon in order to be able to relocate forces for the expected US attack and to secure the oil fields in the Caucasus.
Stalin, expecting a large German offensive during the summer, gave orders for all who were able to be sent into combat and that anyone retreating without direct orders would be subject to strict military discipline. During Germany's Case Blue offensive in June and July, preparations began in Stalingrad for a massive battle. Most of the food and factories were removed from the city, with the exception of factories manufacturing T-34 tanks.
Germans began the Battle of Stalingrad on August 23 with heavy aerial bombardment of the city and doing heavy damage to the Soviet air force. The Soviets resisted tenaciously, and in order to counter the Germans superior air and artillery support they would fight as close as possible to the German infantry, forcing them to fight on their own or take casualties from their own supporting fire. The Soviets converted apartment and factory buildings into fortresses, and artillery across the Volga turned buildings into rubble, blocking German Panzer advances.
This assault on the city left the German flanks exposed, however, and during a Soviet counterattack on November 19, 1942 the Soviets broke through the German lines both north and south of Stalingrad, and within two days had encircled the 245,000 German soldiers of the Sixth Army. Hitler ordered that no German soldiers surrender and that the Luftwaffe supply the surrounded soldiers by air - a task that was hopelessly impossible for the small number of transport and bomber aircraft in the area.
On February 2, 1943 starved and out of ammunition the Germans surrendered to the advancing Soviets. Only 91,000 of the original 245,000 were still alive and the entire battle had cost both sides in excess of 1.7-2 million casualties, and was a turning point against the German forces.
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